Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the opening of online applications for Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission during a press conference in Detroit.
“Last fall, millions of Michiganders voted to give citizens the power to draw our legislative districts, and now it is time to apply to be one of those citizens,” Benson said. “This is a first-of-its-kind opportunity for Michigan voters to draw fair and impartial electoral maps for our state. I hope every Michigander considers applying to participate.”
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Last November, Michiganders voted in support of the “Voters Not Politicians” constitutional amendment to create a commission of 13 randomly selected citizens responsible for drawing new electoral district lines. The commission will be comprised of four Republicans, four Democrats, and five unaffiliated voters. To apply, simply visit RedistrictingMichigan.org. Those selected will each earn approximately $40,000 for compensation for their service and will have the authority to compensate travel expenses for participants. The deadline for submitting an application will be Jun 1, 2020.
To assist with the application process, the state will hold application workshops, coordinate education programs promoting awareness of the application, and mail tens of thousands of applications to registered Michigan voters. The state constitution also requires that each completed application must be signed in the presence of a notary, and starting on December 1 all Michigan Secretary of States offices will offer the service of a registered notary for free. Other local clerk offices throughout the state will be offering their services, and a list of free notaries can be found at Michigan.gov/FreeNotary.
“We are committed to making every effort to connect citizens with notary services, including clear instructions on the application about how to get your application notarized and where to find the service for free, including at our offices,” Brown said. “Every applicant who is eligible and submits a complete, notarized application will have a chance of being randomly selected to serve on the commission.”
Elected officials will have a say on who comprises the commission, with the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority leader each allowed five vetoes of applicants who make it to the semi-finalist stage. The 200 randomly selected semi-finalists will appear online on July 1, 2020.
Voters Not Politicians, the organization responsible for the ballot initiative creating the commission, voiced excitement at the launch of the application process.
“We are thrilled to see the vision of thousands of volunteers who worked to pass the redistricting reform amendment, and the millions of Michigan voters who voted for it, come to fruition,” said their Executive Director Nancy Wang. “After decades of having some of the worst gerrymandered maps in the country, Michigan is now poised to have a fair, impartial, transparent, and citizen-led redistricting process that will be a model for other states.”
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Wang went on to ask as many Michiganders as possible to participate in the application process.
“We encourage Michiganders to apply for a seat on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and be part of the process to bring fair maps to our state,” Wang said. “Please apply and share this exciting opportunity with your friends and neighbors. For our part, Voters Not Politicians will continue to do all that we can to ensure the Commission is a success.”
The ballot initiative is not a done deal, however, as Michigan Republicans are currently challenging the amendment in court. Applicants are ineligible to serve on the commission if they or an immediate family member have worked for a partisan candidate or elected official, worked as a registered lobbyist of consultant, were an officer for a political party, or employed by the legislator in the last six years. Plaintiffs argue that by redistricting membership on the commission, the state is in violation of First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.
If the lawsuit were to fall in favor of the plaintiffs, the application may be a waste of time. But, the time might be worth it to have a direct impact on Michigan politics for years to come.